By IJEOMA UMEH, REVIEW
Perhaps beyond the Stone Age rhetoric that Nigeria should go back to the roots in finding her footing in all aspects of her development challenges, having been wobbling for so long, is the need to ascertain and address the key variables in the key areas of Nigeria’s knock-kneed educational status. This is so because the rhetoric appears now quite over- flogged in defining the extents and margins of prevailing issues and concerns in Nigeria’s growth and her Human Development Index with regard to inputs made over the years in education.
The Human Development Index (HDI) was created to emphasize that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of any nation, and education is one of the indicators in such assessment, alongside health (life expectancy) and per capita income.
Interestingly, the new book, Realities of Nigerian Education, written by the erudite scholar and chieftain of the masses, Sam O.U. Igbe, is a sign- post of the HDI, and like a methodical surgeon, properly dissects the thorny areas of concerns in the nation’s educational situation as they directly impinge on the progress of the people.
The problems of education in Nigeria clearly predate the colonial era with its known serfdoms and hamstrings, and are worsening despite efforts at reforms from one administration to the other.
Mention may be made to issues such as determining the system of education that Nigeria should pursue, ascertaining the standards that such systems should be hinged upon, agreeing to terms and conditions regarding the right handlers for Nigeria’s education in terms of control and responsibility after gaining freedom from colonial rule, brain drain and preference for Western
education amongst others.
The former Governor of CBN, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, speaking in an essay in honour of Professor Adamu Baike, opined that such preference is caused by under-funding. It is possible to add issues like, those who desperately pursue higher education and lay emphasis more on obtaining paper qualification rather than on the proper assimilation and attainment of the highest rewards learning in reality and in character, the compromised standards, and of course, those malpractices which make every turn a free trade zone!
Nigeria has been ranked third on the list of countries with the highest number of students studying abroad, with billions of Naira being paid by these students to their host countries. Sanusi posited, “Schools abroad are better structured, funded and well-positioned to train and prepare youths for future task.”
Former Secretary-General of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Julius Okogie once touched the hornet’s nest when he revealed that over 60 per cent of university teachers did not have doctorate degree, as a result, they could not focus on research work, this is even while his predecessor in office, Peter Okebukola recently called for sector-wide reforms in education in Nigeria, lamenting.
For this reviewer, and perhaps, for millions of Nigerians distraught about the current situation of Nigeria’s education, it is the realization of a new dawn, a show-stopper, a relief more definite than the mere symbolic academic inputs of research fellows, to find, well written and on point, a book that clearly goes beyond scratching the surface with a cluster of academic jargons as most research fellows do, to staring deep into the fundamentals of education, addressing the ‘power and significance of education’ from various perspectives in a clear and simple undertone that gives momentum to the very idea of basic and formal education and how it should be administered!
According to the writer of the Foreword, Former Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Benin, Benin City, The Ven. Prof. Mon Nwadiani, the author, Sam O.U. Igbe is “ … a great Nigerian, the Prime Minister of Benin Kingdom, who is not only a product of education in Nigeria but a benefactor with deep concern about the current state of affairs as they negatively nosedive … ,”
In the book, better now described as a locus classicus in the citation of issues on educational development in Nigeria, the retired Commissioner of Police and Nigerian Colonial Era Civil Servant of repute gave insights into the intricate meaning and value of education, stating, “Education is the most prized contrivance by mankind to better his lot…. Educational development began since creation, and continues throughout the life span of mankind.”
The book, strongly addresses parental role in education, describing it as “ … the most important and most rewarding investment which parents naturally owe their children … “ even as the author philosophized on the virtues which parents and caregivers owe as legacies to their children and wards to include…. “
The author touched the salient and most worrisome issue of “educational tourism and migration” and the long and tedious problem of adapting and learning home languages during sojourns in foreign lands, the negative effect of a long period of learning new languages and imbibing the western culture, even as the distinguished Benin Chief put forward a very tangent case for indigenous education…”
Realities of Nigerian Education x-rays formal education and its intricate nature and import, marking out intellect as the moral solitude to decipher between right and wrong, but a gift which is dynamic from man to man. In a poetic and warming tone the author wrote, “A modern state cannot be governed unless most of its people can read and write … and understand the
workings of machinery,”
He gave readers a vivid insight into progress made so far in formal education from the colonial masters and early Christian Missionaries.
The author, standing perfectly in loco parentis for the youth in Nigeria and elsewhere, made highly worthwhile and educating socio-dynamic recommendations which would help in reinvigorating the minds of the younger generation, in re-engineering their thought processes and by this effort, exposed them to informed choices in choosing careers, generously imbued
them with new zeal for positive engagements, even as he opened new vistas for enhancing teaching practice and enriching the teaching profession in Nigeria.
He positively streamlined and simplified the hitherto complex learning process for the younger generation in particular, proffered for teaching staff evergreen teaching strategies and methods.
The author also takes the reader on an excursion into Nigeria’s Educational Environment, while significantly applying the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) guidelines on human development which is to the effect that the process of enlarging people’s choice is allowing them to lead a long and healthy life, to be educated, and to enjoy a decent standard of living.